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Massively's tour through DDO Update 3

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Recently, we posted information about the current release notes for Dungeons and Dragons Online Update 3, the latest in a series of updates from Turbine since Dungeons and Dragons Online went free-to-play last summer. The update is scheduled to go live on February 3rd, and is only the tip of the iceberg for Turbine's plans, including six content updates for 2010, with a new one added every two months.

For now though, Update 3 offers more than enough to keep players very busy exploring all of the new surprises that it brings. The team at Turbine was kind enough to take us on another extensive tour of the new content, and since we are kind as well, we decided to share it all with you! Follow along after the cut to see all that Turbine has in store for DDO.

This update is designed to make the game even more free and accessible to players, and from our point of view, it's done a fantastic job. So let's take a look:

To begin with, leveling sigils are being completely removed from the game. Sigils have always been necessary for non-subscribing players to level at certain points, and while they were fairly simple to acquire, it was still a small hindrance that needed to be removed. However, the road to more accessible leveling doesn't stop there. You've heard mention of "Casual" difficulty, and it's going to make a big difference in gameplay, particularly in the lower levels. Casual difficulty will now be available on every quest in the game -- with the exception of raids and solo-only quests -- and is geared for solo players, smaller groups, and players looking for a lower challenge than normal. This will effectively replace "Solo" difficulty, which was only available on select quests, and was generally unavailable after level six.

The update will make navigating through quests easier as well. The adventure select panel will guide players a bit more, telling them if the quest is easier or harder than average, and recommending multiple players if needed. Introductory quests are now a bit clearer in guiding players to their next objective, and you'll find notice boards around the city wards to help as well.

The updates don't stop there, however. Vault of Night is the latest adventure pack to receive the Epic treatment, with bigger and better loot to go along with the bigger and better challenges. Level twenty versions of classic loot are now available, and if you complete the Epic Raid fight against the Red Dragon Velah, Red Dragon Scale Armor is now available.

The Reincarnation system is something players will want to find the time to become familiar with as soon as possible. There are two versions -- Lesser and Greater -- which allow players to change appearance, skills, feats, ability scores, and spell selections, all without losing progress and gear. Greater Reincarnation does all that as well as upgrading you to a 32 point build, while +1 or +3 versions let you change one or three class choices from your character's level progression.

You'll find some city improvements as you travel around Stormreach as well. Make sure you pay a visit to House Deneith, as it's been improved and changed to better highlight its military leanings. It's not just for looks, though. House Deneith is preparing for great things to come, so chances are we'll be hearing more from them. Even better, all public city areas now have night time mode. Stormreach is spectacular by night, particularly with the overall city improvements and magical lighting effects.

New Content
Finally, we come to the next part of the update: the new content. Update 3 will introduce four brand new quests, and in keeping with the "even more free" and "even more accessible" philosophy that Turbine is working toward, these are not purchasable adventure packs; they're free for all players!

Here's what's coming:

  • Mired in Kobolds (level 13) -- Three guesses as to what you'll find in this quest. These are not the pushover Kobolds that you've been one-shotting in the Waterworks, though. They're a lot tougher, and once you finish wading through the hordes of little guys, you'll find that they've made a new friend or two. Look out!
  • Delirium (level 15) -- Visit the Sleeping Spell Inn near the Tower of the Twelve. This charming little inn caters to mages and travelers, and features some lovely amenities such as drinking contests with Beholders, tile puzzles that have been listening to Twisted Sister in their off hours, and an end boss who is sick of your griefing.
  • Acid Wit (level 15) -- Foul-smelling Troglodytes won't seem so bad once you go a few rounds with this new batch. While an experiment gone horribly wrong sounds more like something out of a superhero MMO, that's exactly what happened here, leading to a fancy new breed of Troglodyte. The Acid-Scar Tribe is led by High Theurge Trassilyk, and they're bent on the destruction of the Temple of the Twelve.
  • In the Demon's Den (level 18) -- A marilith sorceress has been working on a way to make demons unbanishable on Eberron, and she's getting close to figuring it out, so off you go to stop her. She's very busy with her ritual and doesn't really have time to mess with you (at least in the lower difficulty levels), but no worries. She's got a handy demon horde ready to take you on.
As always, the guys at Turbine generously took us through some of these new quests. We started off with Delirium, and we can promise you lots of fun and some laughs along the way. The Sleeping Spell Inn was a nice, normal inn until the mages from the Tower of the Twelve accidentally opened up a portal to Xoriat, the Plane of Madness. Oops. Things seem pretty quiet on the surface, but upon closer inspection, the patrons and staff aren't having so much fun.

Your first encounter is at the bar, where four huge beholders are gathered around drinking, belching, and haranguing the bartender for something stronger. The good news is they don't want to fight you, they want to have a drinking contest! Since Mickey the bartender isn't very happy about being there -- he says the beholders will eat him if he stops serving them -- you need to rescue him by winning the drinking contest. Drinks all around, then. You'll find the drinks a bit "stunning", so to speak, and you may want to have good fortitude saves among other things. Thankfully, the beholders are lightweights as well, and if you win the drinking contest, the bartender thanks you and calls over his shoulder that there are more in the inn that need saving, as he makes his escape.

Heading back to the door with the key you obtained from the bartender, you'll...wait, something's not quite right. It looks like the drinks have a lingering effect, and you're periodically going to go insane through the rest of the quest. It's not so bad, the colors are nice and there may be some beneficial side effects. Remember, the Sleeping Spell Inn has many, many secrets. When your party is under the effect of madness, you can find things and go places that you couldn't normally. It's no fun if we give away all of the secrets, but take your time and explore this quest -- it's well worth it. We stumble onward through the inn, rescuing guests and staff alike while battling...rampaging food and keys that don't want to be picked up? Delirium is certainly the right name for this quest.

Once you've rescued everyone and navigated the inn, you'll find yourself facing a huge empty room with a chest at the far end. Nope, that's not ominous at all.

As you charge across the perfectly harmless room, a huge beholder named Knizzlenak flies through a hole in the ceiling to kill you, but is distracted by a tile puzzle. He needs to kill you and keep the exit sealed off, but he's really, really distracted by the cool puzzle. The trick is to keep him off-balance and distracted enough that he can't focus on killing you. He's pretty annoyed by your griefing and threatens to ragequit a few times, but keep at it.

Once we finally dispatched Knizzlenak and cleaned up our armor a bit, we headed over to visit Smiley Smythe and check out Mired in Kobolds. Mired in Kobolds is a much more straightforward quest, without the twists, turns, and secrets of Delirium, but with some very big surprises at the end. Smiley Smythe is having some trouble making his deliveries through the swamp -- some extra-strength Kobolds have been hindering his progress, and he's eager to give you a ride over so you can deal with this problem for him.

As you venture through the swamp, you'll find some smaller objectives along the way, such as "kill 30 Kobolds", a nice bonus for players who don't have time to complete the entire quest but would still like to gain some XP. As you wade through the Kobold swamp, you'll notice a few details. First of all, these Black Scale Kobolds are tough, much more so than what you're used to. Secondly, you'll see that they mention their "master" -- they're working for someone or something. Finally, you'll see many Kobolds working on some sort of power crystals throughout the area. Destroying the crystals has a devastating effect on anyone nearby, something that could be used to your advantage. Hints about the end boss appear throughout the quest, particularly near the end, so veteran D&D fans should have an idea of where this is all leading.

The final leg of our tour took us back to Stormreach Harbor, which has undergone a fairly startling transformation. Last we checked, it was not snowing in the Harbor, there was no ski jump, and the lighthouse was not a home to an ice skating rink. Welcome to the Risia Ice Games, a fun winter event handily timed to coordinate with the winter Olympic Games. Players will be able to use the events to earn Ice Tokens, which are earned through winter events, or through slaying any fire creature in the game, and can be used to rent ice skates or given to Jack Frostbite the collector in exchange for many special items. Players can receive an Ice Imp summon, crafting recipes, and recipes to modify random loot drops, among other things.

That concluded our tour of Update 3, and of course we took quite a few screenshots for you to enjoy. Take a look at the gallery below, and we'll see you on the ski jump next Wednesday!

As always, we are very thankful to Executive Producer Fernando Paiz, Producer Eric Boyer, and Senior Content Designer Charles Miles. Thanks for your time, guys, we had a great time!

Gallery: Dungeons and Dragons Online Update 3 | 44 Photos

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